AFL Round 11: And that was that, for Tiger Terry.

by John Green

After weeks of wondering when the guillotine blade is going to drop, Terry Wallace has left the scaffold and decided to go of his own accord. The Tigers’ clash with the Western Bulldogs is to be his last as Richmond coach. There is a curious irony in Wallace’s swansong. He is competing against the outfit he left in acrimonious circumstances in 2002. Wallace almost succeeded Bulldogs coach and former teammate, Rodney Eade, as coach of Sydney. Eade was interviewed for the vacant Richmond job in 2004. Now Eade is on the way up with a promising combination and Wallace has one foot out the door.

Wallace came to Punt Road on a wave of optimism. He had some “unfinished business” after a frustrating season as a player in 1987.

Instead, it has come to this.

This game counts for little. Regardless of the result, the Bulldogs will remain in the top four and the Tigers will still be mired in the bottom four.

Questions tumble through my mind. Why, despite his best efforts, was Wallace unable to change the fortunes of a once-great club? Can his men pull off an unlikely victory? Where to for the Tigers now in an expanded national competition? Will the Bulldog fans bury the hatchet or will they maintain their hostility towards a former favourite son?

There are a few surprises at the opening bounce. Kelvin Moore lines up in attack on Brian Lake. Deledio also goes forward, with a view perhaps to exposing Liam Picken, the rookie tagger who gave him so much grief at their previous meeting.

It looks like Terry has given his Tigers a licence to take on their opponents. Daniel Jackson is outgunning the dangerous Adam Cooney. Mitch Morton enhances his celebrity status from booting the winner in the previous outing against the Dockers, slotting Richmond’s first three majors. Scores are level at quarter-time. In the second term the Bulldogs surge to a 27-point lead. The game is starting to take a predictable trajectory. If it’s a shoot-out Richmond wants, the Bulldogs will win it every time. Spectators around me are more interested in discussing the progress of their fantasy teams.

But suddenly, the Tigers return fire. For seven glorious minutes, they play in the manner championed by Wallace when he first arrived at Tigerland. An exhilarating brand of run and carry. They take risks, link up and run through the lines, using rapid-fire handball and one long kick to a leading forward in space. Pattison (twice), Collins, Tuck and Reiwoldt score and the Tigers hold an unlikely two-point lead at half-time. Ah, bliss. Bulldog supporters blame the umpires for their predicament. The joint is rocking to a yellow and black tribal rhythm as the boys jog in unison from the field. They have scored eight straight goals to the Bulldogs’ 7-4 in the second stanza.

The free-scoring duel continues in the third quarter. The Bulldogs kick another score of 7-4. This time, however, the Tigers shoot blanks, booting only two behinds. The Bullies simply close the Tigers down with formidable defensive pressure. They corral running Tigers into dead ends and sweat on them for the inevitable turnovers. They pounce and kick with precision into an open forward line, hitting their targets with unerring accuracy. Cooney ouwits Jackson and assumes control of the midfield. Harbrow sets up numerous attacking moves from defence. Cross and Boyd weave their gritty magic in the packs and extricate the ball for their runners. Brad Johnson gives a football lesson to young Will Thursfield.

The atmosphere becomes funereal for Richmond fans. I watch Wallace as he makes his final address to his payers at the last break. What can he say that can possibly help?

Josh Hill boots three in the last term to make it a tidy return of four for the evening. The Bulldogs unleash a 13 goal to two second half.

The siren sounds. How will it end for Terry?

He emerges onto the field and is booed by the Bulldog fans. They don’t forgive or forget out west. He is interviewed by Tim Watson, another former coach. The Richmond players wait and so do the Bulldogs some distance away. Rodney Eade and Leon Cameron walk over to shake hands with Wallace. None of their players accompany them. The Bulldogs head to their race where Ryan Hargrave, one of their own, receives a rousing cheer for completing his 150th game.

Wallace leaves the arena at the head of his players to the polite applause of the Richmond faithful. The Bulldogs theme song is played for the second time.

Wallace started his coaching career at Richmond with a 62-point defeat to Geelong. He ends it with a 68-point loss to the Bulldogs.

He strides up the race to a new life.

My votes: 3 Cooney 2 Boyd 1 Harbrow

Leave a Comment